Article

History of Hymns: “Shine, Jesus, Shine”

by C. Michael Hawn

"Shine, Jesus, Shine"
Graham Kendrick
The Faith We Sing, No. 2173

Graham Kendrick

Few Christian songs composed just 20 years ago have had such an immediate impact on congregational singing as Graham Kendrick’s “Shine, Jesus, Shine” (also known as “Lord, the light of your love is shining”). 

Graham Kendrick (b. 1950), a native of Blisworth, Northamptonshire, England, now resides in Kent. The son of a Baptist pastor, he began writing songs in the early 1970s and today is one of the most prolific British Christian singer-songwriters and worship leaders. 

Initially trained as a teacher, he began his career as a singer/songwriter in 1972. He now has over 30 albums and 400 songs to his credit, and his songs are sung throughout the world in many languages. 

“Shine, Jesus, Shine” has been a song of hope at noteworthy events such as the 1996 Dunblane memorial service for 16 students and teacher who were tragically killed, and the Tasmania massacre memorial service for the 40 people killed by a lone gunman, also in 1996.
Other large gatherings that used the song include the Billy Graham crusades to the largest ever open-air mass in 1995 in Manila, where Pope John Paul II is said to have “swung his cane in time to the music.” 

Mr. Kendrick says of the song’s origin: “Bearing in mind the worldwide popularity of this song, perhaps the most surprising thing about the writing of it is the ordinariness of the circumstances. 

“I had been thinking for some time about the holiness of God, and how that as a community of believers and as individuals, His desire is for us to live continually in his presence. My longing for revival in the churches and spiritual awakening in the nation was growing, but also a recognition that we cannot stand in God’s presence without ‘clean hands and a pure heart.’ So I wrote the three verses and ‘road tested’ it in my home church. Though there was clearly merit to the song, it seemed incomplete, so as I was unable at the time to take it any further, I put it back in the file. 

“Several months later I was asked to submit new songs for a conference song book, and as I reviewed this three-verse song, I realized that it needed a chorus. I remember standing in my music room with guitar slung round my neck trying different approaches. The line ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ came to mind, and within about half an hour I had finished the chorus, all but some ‘polishing.’ Though I felt an excitement in my spirit at the time, I had no inkling at all that it would become so widely used. There were other songs I rated more highly at the time that most people have never heard of!” 

Stanza one focuses on the light “shining in the midst of the darkness” and Christ as the “Light of the World” (John 8:12). This Light “set[s] us free by the truth...” (John 8:32). 

Stanza two reflects on coming before the “awesome presence” of Christ, where “the shadows [turn] into your radiance.” Christ’s brightness “consume[s] all my darkness.” The final stanza focuses on how Christ’s brightness may be reflected in our lives as “our faces display your likeness.” 

Charles Wesley’s famous hymn, “Love divine, all loves excelling,” is fleetingly paraphrased as Christ’s brightness is “ever changing [us] from glory to glory” as we mirror him. The third stanza concludes with a petition: “May our lives tell your story.” 

Mr. Kendrick’s efforts have been recognized in many ways, including a Dove Award (1995) and an honorary doctorate of divinity from Brunel University (2000) in West London. 

“Shine, Jesus, Shine” was voted tenth in a 2005 survey of the United Kingdom’s favorite hymns by the BBC’s Songs of Praise program.
 

Dr. Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology.

Categories: History of Hymns